For graduate and undergraduate students alike, academic research is pivotal to our education. The use of peer-reviewed articles not only aids our understanding of the disciplines we study but is often a required part of our coursework.
It's easy for students to disregard the costs behind accessing hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed materials. For universities, however, the bill is staggering. The business of academic research publishing is to blame.
Ideally, researchers are paid a salary to conduct and write their research, typically via grants and their institutions. Then, the research authors pay a fee to submit their work to be peer-reviewed. In many cases, these peer reviewers are not compensated for their work.
Then, research databases cash in by charging users subscription fees for access to published materials.
These databases are exploiting researchers, institutions and their users. This isn’t the way it has to be.
Assuming researchers get paid a salary for their work, they are not reliant on publishing fees to make a living.
Researchers aren’t to blame. These publishing monoliths are the ones building costly paywalls around researchers’ content, even going as far as to charge authors a fee if they do not want their work behind a paywall.
These fees stack up for universities and individuals. On Elsevier, which is responsible for 18 percent of the world’s research output, one article could cost almost $30. A JSTOR individual research subscription — which still limits access and PDF downloads — costs upwards of $200 annually. Some sites, like ProQuest, don’t even allow individuals to purchase subscriptions. This privilege is reserved for universities and research institutions.
Disparities exist between the disciplines as well. For example, scientific journals are more often open access than humanities journals.